DPH outlines next groups eligible for COVID vaccine

WILMINGTON — More essential workers and individuals who are 65 years or older have been added to the state’s Phase 1B group for its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Delaware Division of Public Health finalized these recommendations Tuesday. The state is currently in Phase 1A, which includes health care personnel who have direct contact with ill patients or infectious material, emergency medical services agencies, long-term care staff and long-term care residents.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the DPH, said she expects Phase 1B to start in the middle or end of January.

The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to include all those 75 years or older in Phase 1B, but the DPH made the adjustment to 65 after looking at Delaware’s COVID-19 death data. Dr. Rattay said its ethics committee recommended the move to 65. This is because that, while the median age for deaths among White and Asian persons is 82 and 83, respectively, the median age for deaths among Blacks is 74, and it is 66 for Hispanic individuals, according to the DPH’s data.

“We were very concerned we would miss some of our most vulnerable population,” Dr. Rattay said. “Saving lives and decreasing hospitalizations are the highest priority for us right now.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices defines essential workers included in Phase 1B as first responders (firefighters and police) and education workers (teachers, support staff and child care staff), as well as employees in the food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections, U.S. Postal Service, public transit and grocery store industries.

The DPH said leaders in these employment sectors will be asked to identify which of their staff members should receive the vaccine before others based on factors such as frequent close contact with the public and inability to socially distance consistently at work. This is currently the case with health care workers to whom the vaccine has been distributed.

“We’re essentially looking at those who are close to the public who are most exposed,” Dr. Rattay said of essential workers included in Phase 1B, “or those who have a difficult time social distancing or both.”

Dr. Rattay added that not every person in those categories would be vaccinated in Phase 1B. For example, she said, regarding the agriculture sector, workers at poultry plants would be vaccinated, but private farmers likely would not be because they face no problems with social distancing.

There will be a variety of approaches to distribute the vaccine in Phase 1B. One way would be for employers to distribute vouchers to their employees to go to a pharmacy to receive the vaccine, while others could host vaccination events.

The DPH is encouraging employers in the Phase 1B category to visit the Agencies, Organizations, and Businesses section of de.gov/covidvaccine and complete the Planning Survey for Organizations with Essential Workforces.
“There will be some different approaches,” Dr. Rattay said. “There will be some events — closed pods we call them — closed events where, for example, one type of profession might choose to partner with a vaccinating partner and make times available for their team to get vaccinated. What we really advocate right now is for employers to spend some time on our website, fill out the survey, get the information to us, so they can really start getting their plans together.”

Due to limited supplies of the vaccines, the DPH said they may not be available to everyone in Phase 1B initially. Individuals 65 and older will be asked to contact their health care provider directly near the end of January to discuss their options for receiving the vaccine.

Dr. Rattay said Tuesday that the state has administered 8,422 doses of the vaccine since Dec. 15. She noted there is a 48-hour delay in reporting vaccine totals, so the number could be slightly higher than that.

The state is expecting 5,850 more doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week to go to long-term care centers through the Federal Pharmacy Program. There are also 8,775 Pfizer doses scheduled to be delivered this week to health care systems, so they can administer the second dose of the vaccine to those who have already received the first dose.

The state should also receive 5,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week for enrolled health care providers, such as outpatient providers, the state’s psychiatric center and providers in the Department of Correction.

“We’re starting to get it into new and different places, which we’re excited about,” Dr. Rattay said. “Please be patient with us. There’s just not enough vaccine for everyone right now.”

The DPH’s Vaccine Call Center (833-643-1715) is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Individuals can email their questions concerning the vaccine to vaccine@delaware.gov or visit de.gov/covidvaccine for up-to-date information.

Delaware has recorded 56,189 total positive cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported March 11, including 717 new cases announced Tuesday. A total of 898 individuals have suffered COVID-19-related deaths, as there were no new deaths to report Tuesday.

Hospitalization levels are still elevated, with 427 hospitalized with the virus as of Monday at 6 p.m. and 60 considered critical.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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